As we move into fall with the beautiful changes to the leaves and the cool air, we also enter the beginning of cold and flu season. Colds and flus are a normal part of our everyday lives and catching a mild cold 1-2 per year is completely normal. This in fact shows us our immune systems are functioning and able to mount a response. With all the pandemic rules we have been following over the past 20 months, we have seen the rates of colds and flus diminish significantly. As we return to some normalcy, we will inevitably see these numbers increase again.
When Should You Be Concerned About Your Immune Function?
If you are getting sick more then twice during the period Oct-April, or if when you get sick you aren’t feeling well for more than 5 days, these can both be indicators that your immune system could use a little support.
What can you do?
There are some great ways to help support your immune function and keep you healthy during the fall and winter months -
- Vitamin D:
One of the most important nutrients to look at is vitamin D. In the northern hemisphere we typically start to see our stores of vitamin D drop starting in October and last through April. For this reason, it’s a great idea to supplement vitamin D during these months. The general recommendation for vitamin D is 2,000IU/day. I do think it important to run lab work to check your blood levels, as this dose is enough for some people but not enough for others and without the supporting blood work it is difficult to know the correct dosing for you. From a fertility standpoint, we also know women with lower levels of vitamin D can have a more difficult time conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy.
- Vitamin C:
We all have heard about eating oranges or other vitamin C rich foods when we are getting sick. When you are sick your immune system uses significantly higher amounts of vitamin C to help you fight off infections. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which means it doesn’t store in the body and you need to consume it daily. If you get too much vitamin C you can experience loose stools. If that happens reduce the amount you are taking. A typical dose of vitamin C is around 1000mg but this can vary depending on your individual health concerns. Vitamin C can also play an important role in both egg and sperm quality.
This is a mineral that is imperative for healthy immune and intestinal track function. Your requirement for zinc also increases when you are fighting an infection. There is a quick in-office test your naturopathic doctor can do called a zinc tally test, to see if your body has enough zinc or not. Then you can dose depending on the results.
- Getting Regular Exercise:
Regular daily aerobic exercise - up to about an hour - is really supportive for your immune system as well as your nervous/stress system. Regular exercise will help keep cortisol levels lower and help your immune system to function optimally.
- Spending Time Outside Daily:
Much like exercise spending time outside and in nature also helps lower cortisol levels and supports healthy immune function
- Deep Breathing:
When you engage your diaphragm in breathing by either breathing deeply into your belly or by having your rib cage expand puts your body into its relaxation nervous system. Both your immune and digestive systems work optimally when you are in your relaxation nervous system for most of the day. Focusing on your breathing for as little as 5 minutes a day can actually have a positive impact.
- Eating a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables:
Aiming for 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day will give your body a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that can help support immune function.
Overall, if you find you are generally healthy most of the time, adding the above tips into your daily routine will further help support your immune function. If you find you are ill more often or don’t recover easily, try adding the above tips in for a few months. If you are still finding things difficult then reach out to your health professional for addition supports.